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Thread: Spanish to English "Subjunctives"

 
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    Default Spanish to English "Subjunctives"

    I have a translation problem that I hope someone might be kind enough to solve for me.

    Spanish verbs of desire/hope/command, etc., require subjunctive verbs in following dependent clauses. My problem is finding a rule for translating these into English, since English requires at least two DIFFERENT grammatical forms to express such ideas. (My English is Midwestern American).

    For example, 'Espero que venga' or 'Insisto que venga' might be translated as 'I hope that you come' and 'I insist that you come'.

    The grammatical form is more-or-less conserved in the translation to English: a verb of desire/hope, a relative pronoun ('que'/'that') and a conjugated verb in the dependent clause. English, of course, makes scant use of subjunctive verb forms, and must also express the subject pronoun of the dependent clause. But these minor differences aside, the grammatical form is conserved.

    But notice what happens when we translate 'Quiero que venga' using the English verb 'I want.' Then, the translation must be 'I want you TO COME'. It can NEVER be, 'I want that you come'. Now, we no longer have a relative pronoun in the English translation, and following the main verb we find an INFINITIVE instead of a conjugated verb in a dependent clause.

    Spanish expressions of this type seem to most always follow just one grammatical format: main verb of desire/command, etc + relative pronoun (que, etc.) + dependent clause with verb in subjunctive.

    But to translate into English, you must use at least TWO DIFFERENT grammatical formats: 1) one that closely follows the Spanish form: verb of desire/command, etc + relative pronoun + clause with conjugated verb, 2) but also another very different format, that involves: a verb of desire/command, etc. + object pronoun + modifying infinitive.

    Thus, 'I hope that he comes,' BUT, 'I want HIM TO COME.'

    Or, 'I demand that she go,' BUT, 'I expect HER TO GO.'

    Notice that you can't flip-flop most of these forms. You simply cannot say, for example, 'I hope him to come,' or, 'I want that he comes.'

    In short, Spanish seems to have one general grammatical format for utterances of this type: main verb of desire/command,etc. + relative pronoun + dependent clause with conjungated verb in the subjunctive. All verbs of desire/command, etc., involve this one format.

    SOME translations to English follow the grammatical format of the Spanish closely: main verb of desire/command, etc. + relative pronoun + conjungated verb in a dependent clause.

    But some other English verbs of desire/command, etc. simply CANNOT be translated in this way. Instead, they must be rendered as main verb of desire/command, etc. + OBJECT pronoun + infinitive as modifier e.g.,

    I hope THAT HE COMES (and never, 'I hope him to come'),

    but, I want HIM TO COME (and never, 'I want that he comes').

    English verbs of desire/command/expectation, etc., seem to fall into at least two classes, then, with each verb needing its own grammatical format to express these very similar ideas. Spanish expressions of this type must thus be translated in two very DIFFERENT ways when rendered into English.

    Can anyone tell me what is going on here? What rule, if any, describes this situation? Why should we say 'I hope THAT HE COMES,' but, 'I want HIM TO COME'? Are English verbs that require one, or the other, of these two grammatical formats distinguished in some way?

    I had a Mexican friend, with a Ph.D. in Spanish literature, asks me about this problem, which confused him though he has an excellent command of English. Alas, I could not tell him the rule, though I always apply it in practice. But 'knowing how' and 'knowing what' are two very different things in linguistics. Native speakers can 'do', but we can't consciously say WHY we do what we do in our own native languages.

    Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.

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    Dear Paul,
    I wouldn't use the subjunctive when trying to explain these structures to a Spanish learner of English. It holds no practical purpose for them. These forms are known as 'verb patterns' (what happens to the structure following certain verbs and their usage) and need to be learnt as such. I've sent you a link, as it would be very long-winded trying to explain it here. http://esl.about.com/library/weekly/aa052902a.htm. I hope it helps.
    Good luck, Cindy

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    Thumbs up Subjunctive Tense : what a pitfall! Isn't it?

    Quote Originally Posted by paul
    I have a translation problem that I hope someone might be kind enough to solve for me.

    Spanish verbs of desire/hope/command, etc., require subjunctive verbs in following dependent clauses. My problem is finding a rule for translating these into English, since English requires at least two DIFFERENT grammatical forms to express such ideas. (My English is Midwestern American).

    For example, 'Espero que venga' or 'Insisto que venga' might be translated as 'I hope that you come' and 'I insist that you come'.

    The grammatical form is more-or-less conserved in the translation to English: a verb of desire/hope, a relative pronoun ('que'/'that') and a conjugated verb in the dependent clause. English, of course, makes scant use of subjunctive verb forms, and must also express the subject pronoun of the dependent clause. But these minor differences aside, the grammatical form is conserved.

    But notice what happens when we translate 'Quiero que venga' using the English verb 'I want.' Then, the translation must be 'I want you TO COME'. It can NEVER be, 'I want that you come'. Now, we no longer have a relative pronoun in the English translation, and following the main verb we find an INFINITIVE instead of a conjugated verb in a dependent clause.

    Spanish expressions of this type seem to most always follow just one grammatical format: main verb of desire/command, etc + relative pronoun (que, etc.) + dependent clause with verb in subjunctive.

    But to translate into English, you must use at least TWO DIFFERENT grammatical formats: 1) one that closely follows the Spanish form: verb of desire/command, etc + relative pronoun + clause with conjugated verb, 2) but also another very different format, that involves: a verb of desire/command, etc. + object pronoun + modifying infinitive.

    Thus, 'I hope that he comes,' BUT, 'I want HIM TO COME.'

    Or, 'I demand that she go,' BUT, 'I expect HER TO GO.'

    Notice that you can't flip-flop most of these forms. You simply cannot say, for example, 'I hope him to come,' or, 'I want that he comes.'

    In short, Spanish seems to have one general grammatical format for utterances of this type: main verb of desire/command,etc. + relative pronoun + dependent clause with conjungated verb in the subjunctive. All verbs of desire/command, etc., involve this one format.

    SOME translations to English follow the grammatical format of the Spanish closely: main verb of desire/command, etc. + relative pronoun + conjungated verb in a dependent clause.

    But some other English verbs of desire/command, etc. simply CANNOT be translated in this way. Instead, they must be rendered as main verb of desire/command, etc. + OBJECT pronoun + infinitive as modifier e.g.,

    I hope THAT HE COMES (and never, 'I hope him to come'),

    but, I want HIM TO COME (and never, 'I want that he comes').

    English verbs of desire/command/expectation, etc., seem to fall into at least two classes, then, with each verb needing its own grammatical format to express these very similar ideas. Spanish expressions of this type must thus be translated in two very DIFFERENT ways when rendered into English.

    Can anyone tell me what is going on here? What rule, if any, describes this situation? Why should we say 'I hope THAT HE COMES,' but, 'I want HIM TO COME'? Are English verbs that require one, or the other, of these two grammatical formats distinguished in some way?

    I had a Mexican friend, with a Ph.D. in Spanish literature, asks me about this problem, which confused him though he has an excellent command of English. Alas, I could not tell him the rule, though I always apply it in practice. But 'knowing how' and 'knowing what' are two very different things in linguistics. Native speakers can 'do', but we can't consciously say WHY we do what we do in our own native languages.

    Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.
    Dear Paul:

    I've been teaching Spanish as a second language for over 10 years. And, in spite of the fact that I don't have a degree bestowing me on performing this job, I've learned a lot about the grammar of my native language(which I love, by the way).
    At the beginning, I tried to explain my students all of these grammatical rules concerning the use of the Subjunctive Tense( the most hated one) for which I spent hours and hours looking for the plainest way to succeed in putting my message across. I gave up and no longer kept upon trying anything out.
    I discovered another method(on my own..it is only an invention of mine) later on and has been giving me good results.
    But in this case, I just want to add cindy's words more value: most of these applications have to be learned as such. It's better that way.

    Regards,
    RAUL.

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